Roadside Attractions

Once upon a time, The Dog and I went for a run, and on that run, she found a discarded rolled roast. Because I had no time for the dog to to be distracted by such a feast — we were on a run, after all — I carried that rolled roast all the way home, where she devoured it in a few blinks of an eye. This story has become a little apocryphal in the halls of Fortress Mamea because a). The Goddess was too slow to come and see our dog’s find, and b). cellphone cameras were a bit of a luxury back then.

Ever since, The Dog has dallied at the site of that glorious find, whether running or — of late — walking, hoping to find another rolled roast.

A fortnight into 2015, the universe relented:


A discarded leg of lamb.

There’s a lesson in this for my writing.



Until a couple of years ago, my attitude to horses was similar to Billy Crystal‘s “Yeeha” in City Slickers (at 1:44 in the trailer below):

My first experience with horses was a sunset trek with friends more than a few years ago. I remember being taken aback at how big these beasts are, never having thought through the amount of muscle and bone required to carry riders in countless westerns and Black Beauty reboots. When we were led to a corral with horses, I requested a “quiet one with a touch of adventure” and was introduced to a gelding called Bruce.

Bruce and I got on fine: he followed the rest of the group over various tracks in the hills behind Johnsonville. I remember thinking how westerns never show a horse pooing voluminously or farting freely as they moved about.

A while into the trek an open paddock beckoned and the more experienced riders broke into a canter, leaving us behind. I remember urging Bruce on — with maybe a polite “Yah” and a tentative kick of the heels — and he accelerated from a walk to a trot to a canter, all the while I slid in slow motion from the saddle, hung onto his neck for a couple of strides, slipping further and further down until I was deposited on the grass and Bruce showed me his heels and backside.

There were no hard feelings. I was only winded. I had requested a mount “with a touch of adventure” which had obviously exceeded my ambition. Someone caught Bruce, I got back into the saddle and the rest of the trek was uneventful.

I’ve ridden a horse once since that trek, and although I’m told I “look good on a horse”, they’re not really my thing (though a part of me thinks horse riding could be a useful skill after The Crash). The Goddess is — there’s no other way of putting it — horse mad.

Which brings me to an overdue introduction of the cavalry troop at Fortress Mamea:

Call sign: SUNDANCE
Call sign: SUNDANCE

The Goddess’ mount, The Kaimanawa Pony stands 14.2 hands high.

In the past week, the troop has doubled increased by two-thirds with a new recruit:

Call sign: BONFIRE
Call sign: BONFIRE

A paddock companion for the Kaimanawa: The Exmoor Mini stands 10 hands tall.

Onwards, ho, indeed.



The other day, I was out and about in the Goddess’ chariot, far from the fortress, when I entered a roundabout and saw a blue car approaching from my left —

— I noticed it wasn’t slowing down — matter of fact, it was already right — riiiiight — in front of me and I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding, dude” when —

— my seatbelt tightened as we collided and the Fiat’s bonnet crumpled alarmingly towards me and I thought, “The Goddess is not going to like that” —

— my point-of-view skewed rightwards as the cars separated, the other car spinning off the road while the Fiat came to a complete stop, at a right angle to its original direction only moments earlier —

— and I thought, “Un-fucking-believable,” angry that I was involved in an accident, and in the Goddess’ chariot to boot.

I got out and ran to the other car which was already swarming with concerned motorists. The other driver was alive and moving — “I’m so sorry,” he said — and my anger disappeared. The road seemed crowded with pedestrians — every second or third one asking if I’m okay — and when I returned to the Fiat to try and get it off the road — a guy with calm efficiency told me he had it under control and why don’t I go and sit down on the verge over there.

I sat down on the grass as a half-dozen people pushed the chariot to the side of the road, others directing traffic, strangers brought together in that moment to help out, clean up, and keep things moving and safe. I was alive. So was the other driver. Things could have been so much worse but we both walked away from our vehicles that day.

Yes: unfortunately, the Italian stallion is no more:

Italian Stallion 2005–2014

I look at the picture and I’m grateful for engineers and crumple zones. Grateful to the motorists who stopped and helped that afternoon, foremost Phil who took charge. Grateful to Woody the police sergeant who attended the scene. And grateful to still be here.


Mucking with the G

This came to mind after a recent rodent run-in:

It’s that time of the year when some of the forest folk seek shelter in Fortress Mamea from the inclement weather. When scratching noises emanated from the kitchen, The Kitten was duly dispatched. She promptly returned to her currently favoured chair (a Sanderson linen-covered armchair) and resumed her nap.

The Dog and I were then dispatched — The Goddess exhorting us to Kill it kill it kill it — and we chased the rodent from the kitchen, through the Big Hall, around the Banquet Room and finally back to the kitchen. As The Dog and I caught our breath, the invader made Yah loser noises from deep within a cupboard.

Right then, I breathed. A trap was set with a wee treat of peanut butter.

The following morning:

A Fortress Mamea interloper who pushed their luck.
A Fortress Mamea interloper who pushed their luck.

So did I do a little Sean Connery impression when I took the above photo? Yesh, I did. I hope hish friendsh were watching.


The Dog

Ever since her first appearance, The Dog has been an almost annual feature here. It’s hard to believe she’s eleven years old already. Her mortality was first brought home to us when our first chicken was killed:


OUR WRITER and his GODDESS stare at a freshly dug grave. Our Writer rapidly blinks away a dust mote.


(off Writer)

If we’re this upset over a chicken, imagine when The Dog goes.

The Dog was the first addition to Fortress Mamea in 2003. A family canine was something the adult family members wanted: we’d each had a dog in our childhood, though this time around we had requirements like

  • no begging at the dinner table,
  • no sleeping on the bed,
  • and some actual obedience.

We were largely successful: there’s no begging at mealtimes, The Dog knows not to jump onto our bed (the children’s beds are a different matter), and she returns on command.

She and I have clocked up some serious mileage over the years (not so much for a while), but this year she was retired from the exercise regime. Long gone are the days where she would shadow me as I 1). put on my running shoes, 2). ground through some stretching exercises, and 3). collected her lead and my stopwatch from the Wall Hook of Righteous Agony. In the last few months, she has had to be coaxed more and more: at first to leave her dog bed for the brisk morning air and, later, to leave the fortress altogether.

The Dog is getting old. She’s farting more freely, her snoring is louder and more insistent, and her daily ratio of resting versus all-out-physicality has changed markedly. The Goddess and I have been meaning to get a puppy these past few years, ostensibly to keep The Dog company when we’re not at home, but we haven’t even window-shopped. I suspect, deep down, we know that to begin looking for a puppy would be to acknowledge The Dog’s mortality.

The Kitten could be seen in hindsight as a transitional stage. It is heartening to see The Dog initiate playtime with The Kitten.

THE KITTEN -- fully grown now but always referred to as “The Kitten” -- climbs through her CAT FLAP when --

-- THE DOG leaps as if from nowhere --



You’re IT!

-- and lands a paw on the cat’s hindquarters, the dog’s mass and speed spinning the cat 360 degrees until she recovers, back arched and glaring at The Dog:



Step back or die, cur.

The Dog will forever be Fortress Mamea’s first hound. And until it’s time for her to go, we’ll continue to feed her, walk her, and love her.


31 October

Ah crap: that day of the year again.

When The Goddess won’t allow trap-a-treaters —

— or a vaguely themed obstacle course —

— this evening’s roamers and their chaperones will get just one warning:


Yeah whatever.


Filler: Elysium



You want to watch the latest “Elysium” trailer with me?


(over “Horse & Pony” MAGAZINE)

Only if it’ll stop your confounding grovelling.

Our WRITER joins THE GODDESS on the COUCH and angles his Macbook towards Her --

-- our Writer looks at his Goddess, eyes shining:


Wasn’t that just effing awesome?


... Do we still have to go to the multiplex and watch the five minutes that weren’t in the trailer?


YES, DAMMIT! ... Please.

She’s a good sport, She is.


The Kitten


After the departure of The Cat last year, the rat population expanded and some damage was done to Tilly the Dishwasher AND THE GODDESS WAS NOT HAPPY. Messengers were sent to the two corners of Auckland where there are animal refuges, and a connect at a southern outpost mentioned a certain fearless kitten with the kennel-name of Tango.

The name was a promising sign for us: The Goddess and I like to do a mean tango at the local RSA on occasion. Within hours of receipt of news of A Kitten Called Tango looking for a home, The Goddess, The Girl and I visited the said kitten. The Goddess and Girl were immediately smitten by the bundle of tortoiseshell fur and claws; I insisted on a ninety day trial period.

The Kitten joined the Fortress Mamea workforce in mid-February. In her first week, she quickly taught The Dog that she was not a feline to be trifled with, while as part of her familiarisation with the fortress layout, she investigated my workspace and, with careful paw placement, initiated a search for “cccoooolllll” on the MacbookPro.  I halved the trial period to 45 days.

In The Kitten’s third week, I had a bit of a plink with a few pieces from the armoury. This was my effort for the afternoon:


Without any prompting from me, The Kitten joined in:


A bit high with a whisker of a pull to the left but that sub-1.5-inch group spells eschaton for local vermin.

The Kitten stays.


GOODBYE MY FELENI: Order of Battle

The “Goodbye My Feleni” cast (left to right): Taofia Pelesasa, Samson Chan-Boon,Leki Jackson Bourke, Andy Sani

We don’t have stocktakes or inspection days at Fortress Mamea where the menagerie present themselves front and centre with clean nails and shiny coats.

We do have a standing order of battle: our Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pi*, The Dog, The Goldfish, and The Chickens. I like to keep The Amphibian, The Kaimanawa Pony (Goddess permitting) and The Kitten** in reserve.

The Goodbye My Feleni production also has its order of battle:

Rehearsals commence next week.  I’ve gone cold turkey on Left 4 Dead II in order to finish the last draft of the script.  And our faithful and loyal avatar, Chocolate Stigmata, has gotten itself a twitter account.

At Goodbye My Feleni HQ this phase of operation is not called ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’ – Jenni insists that we  call it getting ready to stomp on your shit.

* Pi – Samoan for honeybee (pronounced ‘pee’), rather than the Greek letter and irrational number.
** Yes, an update on the expanded menagerie will follow, complete with pictures for your desktop, laptop and phone wallpapers.


Filler: In Plain Sight

Nothing like being alone in the fortress whilst the Goddess is away (auditioning chargers) to catch up on half-watched shows on the box, among them the short-lived Karen Sisco, Identity and this show.

In Plain Sight is a genial procedural with Mary McCormack‘s US Marshal Mary Shannon each week dealing with a witness protection client and their backstory, with a few beats on the side about the marshal’s personal life. You know what a sucker I am for procedurals. You also know what a sucker I am for the personal life of a favoured weekly law-enforcement/operating-room/intergalactic protagonist when done well.

So when, in the pilot, Shannon’s mother and sister move in with her, signs above them flashing ‘trouble’, I put them down to comic relief. Only, Shannon’s partner Marshall Mann (Fred Weller) is the droll and actual comic relief which left the mother and sister to be unwitting instigators of doom.

I put up with twelve episodes of that goddamned Shannon family arc, the cases-of-the-week a flimsy life preserver of sanity and interest, until a realisation in the season finale:  those Shannon harpies were there to stay, to continue to be instigators of drama for the sake of drama, no matter that logic and safety and mental well-being dictated a couple of desert graves.  Ah well.

I tried.